Muhlenberg County wins state title — again

Muhlenberg County’s Isaiah Smith and Spencer Shemwell battled through windy conditions Friday at the 2024 KHSAA Bass Fishing State Championship to seize a first-round lead — and the duo never looked back, adding to their advantage on the way to capturing the state crown by a sizable margin.

Smith and Shemwell became the second consecutive state championship boat for Muhlenberg County, which also marks the program’s third KHSAA title in the last four years. Dade Vincent and Brock Vincent won in 2023, following Lane Tooley and Camden Harris in 2021.

Last season, Smith teamed with Chase Rickard to finish seventh in state competition, while Shemwell paired with Gavin Lee to earn 12th place. With the duo matched up in 2024, they qualified for the state tournament after placing 18th in the Region 1 Tournament.

Smith and Shemwell soared to the top of the leaderboard after the first day at the state tournament, reeling in 21 pounds, 6 ounces. Leading by less than 2 pounds entering Saturday, the Mustangs again turned in the best performance of the day with 18 pounds, 12 ounces — giving MCHS a 40-pound, 2-ounce total and a victory by more than 8 pounds.

Rickard and Muhlenberg County teammate Dylan Eubanks finished seventh after sitting in the runner-up position after the first round. The two turned in 19 pounds, 7 ounces on Friday, but ended up with 27 pounds, 14 ounces for the tournament. The pair’s first-round performance was boosted by Rickard’s Big Bass Award winner of 5 pounds, 14 ounces.

Since 2012-13, Muhlenberg County has won six state championships and has finished with a boat in the top five every year.

This season, the KHSAA also expanded its girls’ state championship division. After four programs competed last year, there were eleven teams — including the runner-up Muhlenberg County team of Gabrielle Hayward and Alexus Latham. The two sat in third place after reeling in a first-round 7 pounds, 7 ounces but remained consistent for a 14-pound, 13-ounce total and a second-place finish. Their state performance followed a seventh-place finish in the regional tournament.

The Muhlenberg boys also had Blake Likens and Gavin Rolley bring in 15 pounds, 11 ounces for 39th.

Whitesville Trinity’s Carson Fitzgerald and Brady McBrayer were sixth after the first round but finished with 16 pounds, 6 ounces on Saturday — the third-best haul of the day — to seize third place.

Ohio County’s Ty Young and Jarrett Rininger, the third-place finishers at the Region 1 Tournament, totaled 15 pounds, 13 ounces (37th).